Popularly known as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, the azure waters that kiss the golden shores around the island attracts visitors from around the world. If you’re planning a beach-cation on the sunny, tropical island of Sri Lanka, here are the 8 best beaches that will give you a good dose of sun, sand and surf.
Sink your toes into a bed of saffron sand or bask under the warm glow of the sun as you perfect your island tan. Negombo is the ideal place to witness the charms of a traditional fish market. Walk along the shores at dusk to get a rare glimpse of the local fishermen reeling in their catch for the day; usually accompanied with a hearty song or head over to the fish market to get your hands on the delectable ocean delights. Negombo beach is also great for watersports. Negombo is often referred to as Little Rome as an old Dutch canal; which is still in use today, snakes through the city.
Best time to visit - November – March, May-August
Things to do in Negombo :
Main Fish Market – As previously mentioned, the main fish market in Negombo is the ideal place to visit should you wish to get your hands on the island’s fresh fish. You’ll be able to buy most kinds of fish, including prawns and crabs!
Muthurajawela – A wetland march that is home to about 134 species of birds of which, 85 are endemic and 49 are migratory, and many other types of flora and fauna. Birdwatching is one of the most favourite things to do here. Muthurajawela is located approximately 15km from the city.
Religious Buildings – Due to its colonial influence from the early days, the city is dotted with numerous religious shrines, from Buddhist temples to Christian churches. St. Mary’s Church, located in the centre of town has a towering ceiling with intricate wall carvings. The Angurukaramulla Temple holds a reclining Buddha statue that measures 6m in length.
Getting around- Negombo is located approximately 20 minutes from the international airport. Therefore, if you’re staying at a hotel, you can choose from hotels like Club Hotel Dolphin or Jetwing Hotels. Use taxis from reputed providers such as Pickme, Uber or the airport taxis. Tuk-tuks can be found everywhere and are great for getting around the city.
If you’re travelling from Colombo Fort; the main bus/train hub, the most convenient way to travel to Negombo is by train.
2. Mount Lavinia
Mount Lavinia is famed for beach bars and al fresco dining, because who wouldn’t want to dine outdoors with the fresh sea breeze for company?! Spend your day lying on the golden shores, or sip a refreshing cocktail from a beach bar/restaurant.
Best time to visit: November – March, May-August
Things to do in Mount Lavinia:
Colombo National Museum- Approximately 30 minutes from Mount Lavinia, you’ll find the Colombo National Museum, home to historic relics and artefacts from various periods of Sri Lanka’s deep and rich history.
Gangarama Temple – A sacred Buddhist temple in the heart of the city; known to hold elaborate pageants with fire dancers, decorated elephants and local dancers. The temple is an approximately 40-minute ride from Mount Lavinia.
Attidiya Bird Sanctuary – Encompassing 372 hectares of lushly forested wetlands, the sanctuary; ideal for bird watchers is home to over 166 species of birds; both endemic and migratory, as well as many other types of flora and fauna. The bird sanctuary is located a mere 5 minutes away.
Mount Lavinia is a bustling beach town in Colombo. Visitors can opt to use various methods of public and private transport to get around the city from metered taxis, trains, tuk-tuks or buses.
Kalpitiya beach is not just ideal for working on your summer glow but also for embarking on exciting excursions of dolphin watching and kite surfing. Located in the northwest of Sri Lanka, a visit to this coastal town is a must!
Best time to visit: May – September
Things to do in Kalpitiya:
Dolphin watching - Keep your eyes peeled for Spinner Dolphins playfully darting through the azure waters of the Indian Ocean as you embark on a thrilling cruise.
Kitesurfing -The months from May to December draws in huge gusts of winds and throngs of kitesurfing enthusiasts. With many kitesurfing schools lining the beach, beginners also have the chance to try their hand at this exciting watersport.
Snorkelling and Scuba Diving - Keen wildlife enthusiasts with a love for marine life will find that visiting Kalpitiya between November to early May is the best time to look for reef sharks, manta rays and sea turtles.
Getting around: It’s approximately 3 and a half hours from the international airport. Unless you’re using a private car to get here, the next best alternative is the public bus, which would take between 3-4 hours to reach this town.
Bentota is all about watersports! Whizz along the azure waters on a jet ski or glide through on a canoe. The Bentota River which glides through the town is a popular hub for watersports, which includes kite & windsurfing, boogie boarding and banana boat rides.
Best time to visit: October – April
Things to do in Bentota:
The Lunuganga Estate - An age-old house built by the island’s famous architect, Geoffrey Bawa. He spent a majority of his life developing and building this estate. After his death, the property was converted to a country house hotel.
Kande Vihara Temple - Perched at the summit of a hill, this temple is home to a 160 feet tall statue of the Buddha in a seated position. The shrine is located about 1 hour away from Bentota.
Brief Garden by Bevis Bawa - Bevis Bawa, brother of the famous architect Geoffery Bawa maintained and established the iconic Brief Garden in Aluthgama. Covering 20 acres of well-manicured gardens blossoming with various types of flora, the gardens are a must visit!
Getting around: The ideal and most recommended way to travel to Bentota, especially from Colombo city is by train. The scenic train ride is a favourite amongst many tourists heading here.
Popular amongst tourists, Unawatuna is the perfect lazy beach to kick back and relax while enjoying the island life.
Best time to visit:
November – April, May - October
Things to do in Unawatuna:
Galle Fort - No less than 20 minutes away, you’ll come across a historic fort initially built by the Portuguese and later fortified by the Dutch.
Rope Swing- Channel your inner Tarzan and swing into the azure seas of Unawatuna from this rope swing. It’s a great spot for your Instagram pictures!
Japanese Peace Pagoda – Designed to inspire and promote peace in the country, the Japanese Peace Pagoda is a white stupa overlooking the Indian Ocean and the city of Galle.
Surfing / Standup Paddle-boarding – The seas around Unawatuna and Galle are great for surfing and stand up paddle-boarding between the months from November to May. Don’t forget to catch the sunset while paddle boarding!
Getting around: Hop on a train or a highway bus to the historic town of Galle and then take a short bus/tuk-tuk ride to Unawatuna. Unawatuna has a number of budget properties such as Hotel J to choose from.
Mirissa is known to be the best and one of the first spots for whale and dolphin watching. Cruise into the azure seas and look out for majestic whales breaking through the surface or playful dolphins swimming along your boat.
Best time to visit: December – March
Things to do in Mirissa:
Whale and Dolphin Watching – Mirissa is a great place to look for whale and dolphin watching. Some of the more common species you’ll be able to spot are sperm whales, blue whales, spinner dolphins and bottlenose dolphins.
Surfing – With massive waves, Mirissa is a popular surfing destination for locals and tourists alike. Surfboard rentals are available on the beach.
Galle- Approximately 1 hour away from Mirissa, you’ll find the historic town of Galle. Walk along the ancient fort ramparts, and visit the Galle Lighthouse and Clocktower.
Getting around: Enjoy a scenic train ride along the southern coast to get to Mirissa. Tourists even have the option of using the public bus system or renting a car.
20 minutes from Mirissa, you’ll come to the quiet seaside town of Weligama. Weligama Bay is THE place to head to if you want to learn how to surf. With many surfing schools crowding the beach, you have a number of places to choose from – most of which will have you surfing within minutes!
Best time to visit: January – March
Things to do in Weligama:
Surfing - Rent a board from the nearest surfing school and prepare to surf through the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean. Weligama Bay is the best place for beginners!
Kusta Raja Gala - Stemming from the 7th – 9th century, the Kustataraja Gala is larger than life statue believed to have been carved in memory of a foreign king who suffered from a skin disease.
Hummanaya Blow Hole- Located in Dikwella, the Hummanaya Blow Hole is the second largest in the world. Popular amongst tourists, this natural water fountain shoots up to 25 feet into the air.
The Dondra Lighthouse – This lighthouse stands as a monument of light for sailors at the southernmost tip of Sri Lanka. The lighthouse towers approximately 49m in height.
Getting around: Head towards Mirissa in southern Sri Lanka; from there, Weligama is around 20 minutes by tuk-tuk! Splurge and treat yourself to a stay at Cape Weligama for a truly luxurious escape.
8. Arugam Bay
A surfer’s haven, Arugam Bay is located in the east of Sri Lanka. The ginormous waves attract surfing enthusiasts from across the island and around the world, where numerous international and local competitions are held. If surfing isn’t your forte, kick back and lie on a beach hammock as you soak into the comforts of island living.
Best time to visit – April to October
Things to do in Arugam Bay:
Learn to Surf – There are plenty of surfing schools in Arugam Bay for those interested in learning how to catch the biggest waves on the island.
Kumana National Park – Less than an hour away from the bay, visit this national park for a chance to see the island’s gentle giants, colourful birds and plenty of other wildlife.
Pottuvil Lagoon – An nature excursion, cruise through this lagoon and keep your eyes open for murky crocodiles, water buffalos and elephants.
Getting around – You can get to Arugam Bay by bus, train, car or plane! Hop on a tuk-tuk or rent a bike to travel around the city.